From Collective Leadership To Divine Leadership
All my professional life I’ve been driven by the study of leadership. What is it, that determines the success of any endeavor? What distinguishes good from great organizations? How do entrepreneurs take their ideas from invention to implementation and innovation? How do teams excel and make the impossible possible?
All these questions pointed me towards leadership.
Self Leadership – The Intervention and the Intervenor
I found most of my curiosity met not within my business studies at a traditional elite university but in books somewhat on the (at least back then) fringe of the traditional mainstream curriculum. Otto Scharmer for example inquired into „Uncovering The Blind Spot of Leadership“, emphasizing on the power of listening and „the inner place from which we operate“.
Team Leadership – Interpersonal Competencies for High Performance
This curiosity lead me to co-found my first company, MALAMUT Team Catalyst, where we applied scientifically proven psychometrics to analyze a team and optimize their constellation and interactions based on various criteria. We wanted to go beyond “hard skills” and used personality typologies, interpersonal as well as entrepreneurial competency and personal value assessments.
Our software aimed to maximize the diversity of introversion/extraversion and structured/flexible working styles within a team to create a broad range of capacities as well as “soft skills”. At the same time we wanted to point out potential conflicting alignment between team members and optimize for congruence when it comes to personal values and goals.
However exciting it was to dip my toes into the water of creating my first entrepreneurial venture as my first job out of university and being recognized with several innovation awards and some early successes of our software being applied in companies, I found that the quantitive approach to leadership wasn’t fulfilling my longing for depth and finding real answers to what great leadership is about.
Collective Leadership – Integrating the I, You & We
So my journey continued with what ultimately resulted in the founding of Leadership³, the organization which I’ve been dedicating my professional life to for the last 10 years. What started as a festival around the question of „what is collective leadership?“ turned into a community, a for-profit consultancy and a non-profit academy with many years of in-depth field research into the success factors of leadership.
We defined Collective leadership as an organizational principle where decisions are made in a decentralized way based on the highest competency in the field. Leadership is situation based and can shift to other people fluidly. It is an emergent field quality rather than a static role and allows us to deal with complexity more adequately.
As much as we’ve aspired to live this ideal and collected many insights, structures, methods, tools, principles and practices along the way, we’ve also struggled to make this group flow phenomenon a constant and replicable experience – rather we supported others and ourselves to create the conditions for it to emerge with an increasing degree of humility and acknowledgement of grace.
One of the realizations which we had early on is that the capacity for collective leadership starts with the personal competencies and capacity to open up to this phenomenon. Self-leadership (I) is as much a pre-requisite as the capacity to work with others on a basis of deep trust and connection (You). Only then can we access the quality of co-creation, rather than just cooperation. But the whole spectrum of collective leadership opens up only once we also include the field and the larger context (We) and develop what Otto Scharmer describes as „Awareness-Based Collective Action“.
From Tools to Embodiment
In many ways we’ve been following a very scientific, reasonable, methodological and empirical approach to nailing this concept. While we’ve been not shy to bring in a broad variety of methods and practices that include the whole spectrum from deep listening to embodiment and conscious rituals, our focus was in many ways on what could be framed as a more masculine (yang) approach to doing business.
What I realize these days is that there is another element to collective leadership that has a lot to do with the individuals and groups capacity to listen even deeper and from that listening step into a knowing that is beyond reason or the rational mind. Even though it is a limited categorization, I would frame this intuitive access to collective leadership as a more feminine (yin) approach.
Being of Service to Life
The power of intention and intuition comes much more from a state of being and knowing than with doing and understanding. It requires a surrender to being led by something that is bigger than our small „skin encapsulated egos“. We need a certain level of stillness in our lives to actually listen to this deeper knowing, this voice that is beyond our story and conditioning.
In my experience, the latter is what came up quite strongly for me personally in the last year. After moving to Costa Rica, I experienced that despite „having left the system“ the system didn’t leave me. I noticed all the voices and judgements that I need to do something in order to be someone. My old conditioning and biographical imprinting was confronted with a divergent reality of being blessed with the most abundant life that nature was providing without me having to do anything to earn it.
For months I was just starring in the jungle, not even meditating and purging all the discomfort that the surfacing of these old believes created. My guiding question in this inquiry was „how can I be of service to life?“
I really wanted to do something, yet nothing came as a true impulse that resonated as free from my limiting story of compulsive doing. And only after almost a year, the first glimpses of an answer came and flowed into projects like the ”Temple of Love“ or „Seavolutionary – Exploring New Horizons“ and other community building projects, and also more music or creative projects like e.g. gardening.
Surrendering to Divine Leadership
Since then, my understanding of career or purpose has transformed quite a bit. It is less about what I want, but more about how I can be of service to life.
And with that comes a great relief – I don’t need to worry so much about my personal desires anymore. I am putting myself in service to life and life is taking care of me. In almost magical ways I feel how I don’t need to worry about many small questions so much if I surrender to this leadership.
Life takes care of me and I take care of life, that I am, expressing itself through me.